Monochrome Madness: MM3-22

The first hints of pleasant temperatures have made it to the desert southwest, and before September 21st.  I’m sure that’s a mistake, but we’ll take it!

Autumn is a lot more reliable in the high country.  In those years where there aren’t any storm fronts and their associated winds, some forests can take on pretty spectacular colors.  The aspen trees are in the highest life zones, and the first to change color.  That’s usually a brilliant gold, but sometimes they can linger to deep oranges and reds.

This particular stand of aspens, mixed with the pines, is from the Kaibab National Forest, north of the Grand Canyon.  Although a major fire has devastated a large portion of that forest, it is still one great place to view the seasonal change. The contrast of the brilliant aspens to the other trees, along with a very clear sky makes for nice full days of hiking and photography.

This is my addition to Leanne Cole’s Monochrome Madness this week.  You can check out her website here.

WPC: Edge

The Daily Post Challenge this week is Edge, and the first thing that came to mind was waterfalls going over the edge, but I haven’t come across too many that allow getting to this angle safely.

Lake Powell in southern Utah has more shoreline than the Pacific Ocean along the continental US.  In this early morning photo you can see the shoreline’s sinuous edges.

Lake Powell, Utah, shoreline, sunrise, Steve Bruno , gottatakemorepix

Sand dunes sometimes have well defined edges, such as this one shown here from Death Valley National Park, California.

Death Valley National Park, sand dunes, sunrise, Steve Bruno - gottatakemorepix

These massive boulders are hanging over the edge of a cliff along the drive up Mount Lemmon, just outside of Tucson, Arizona.

Mount Lemmon, Tucson, Arizona, rock formations, Steve Bruno, gottatakemorepix

There are few canyons in the desert southwest as impressive as Arizona’s Canyon de Chelly.  Spider Rock, shown here at the edge of darkness, can only be seen by walking to the edge of the canyon.

Canyon de Chelly National Monument, Arizona - Steve Bruno - gottatakemorepix

Monochrome Madness: MM3-21

Bristlecone Pines.  The ancient forest.  These majestic trees can live to be 5000 years old, and only grow at the highest elevations just below tree line.  This particular group is from the Spring Mountains, near Las Vegas, Nevada, at an elevation just over 10,000 feet.  Many of these can be twisted with stunted growth, usually on an exposed ridge where the dominant winds have a long term effect upon them.  The overall straightness and height of this group made me stop for a photo.

This is my contribution to Leanne Cole’s Monochrome Madness this week.  You can see the work of other’s on her site, as well as instructions on joining the challenge.

WPC: Mirror

This week’s Daily Post Challenge theme is Mirror, and as with many bloggers, I have photos of calm bodies of water. Who can resist pointing the camera towards nature’s reflections?  Those weren’t the only ones I came across, and I realized I have more of these than I initially thought I would.  Here are some of my favorites.

I usually had my camera along with the dogs out for an excursion, and in these shots, I noticed some reflections.

In modern buildings, the glass surfaces almost always offer a mirrored image, and here are a couple favorites from Calgary, Alberta.

With that much volume of water in motion, large rivers seem like an unlikely place to find a mirrored surface. Despite that, early morning on the Colorado River in Marble Canyon in Grand Canyon, Arizona can look like this.

Colorado River reflections in Marble Canyon, Grand Canyon National Park - Steve Bruno - gottatakemorepix

In my backyard (relatively speaking), I have a couple spots I enjoy hiking in Red Rock Canyon, where I came across these mirrored surfaces.

One of my favorite places that I’ve ever hiked, West Clear Creek in Arizona, usually has a breeze moving through the canyon.  Early mornings can be very calm, and pools can be glasslike.

Mountain lakes with reflections appear to have proliferated my files without me being aware of it.  Here are some in that category.

One image that always made me look twice was this one from Coyote Buttes.  There is no water or reflection here, but I felt like the illusion was there.

Coyote Buttes, The Wave - Steve Bruno - gottatakemorepix

I have one photo of an actual mirror. This is the MMT (Multiple Mirror Telescope) at the Whipple Observatory on Mount Hopkins, Arizona.  During daylight, this telescope dish is tilted down and pointing northward.  This was around the summer solstice, and at sunset, when the sun was at its furthest point north.  As I walked by, this cool mountain air had a hotspot about 20 degrees warmer from the sun just grazing the edge of this dish array.  I can’t imagine the destruction if this thing were aimed in the slightest degree towards the sun.

MMT at Fred Lawrence Whipple Observatory, Arizona - Steve Bruno - gottatakemorepix

Finally, a little bit about the featured image.  That’s Saguaro Lake, on the outskirts of Phoenix, Arizona.  It’s usually a crowded place, especially in summertime.  This happened to be in winter, after a couple days of rain.  It’s a fairly sizeable body of water, and this reflection has to be a rare moment, and the absence of people, even rarer.  This photo will always have a special place in my memories.  It was the first one I ever had published.

Monochrome Madness: MM3-20 Road

This week’s Monochrome Madness has the theme of road.  You can see what other bloggers have contributed at Leanne Cole’s website.

This is US Route 191, north of the Morenci Open Pit Mine in eastern Arizona.  This road used to have a different number – US Route 666.  I guess some people didn’t like the association with that number.  The only devilish things about this road are all those curves, and the elevation gain.  Morenci sits at about 4000′, and the mine a little higher.  Once you’ve passed that, it’s about 60 miles to Hannagan Meadow, the closest thing to a town along this route, and you will have passed the 9000′ elevation marker.  60 miles, only one straightaway.  I think if I ever had the chance to drive a Ferrari, this is where I’d bring it.

Zion National Park: The Upper East Side

A couple days ago, The US National Park Service celebrated its 100th year.  Although many parks receive significant traffic, there are still parts of those parks where one can stretch out a little.  The east side of Zion NP is one of those spots.

Most visitors to Zion want to see the main canyon and places like Angel’s Landing and The Narrows.  As they head up the winding road and through the spectacular tunnels on the way out the east exit, many are on their way to either Bryce or Grand Canyon.  There are a couple pullouts along this stretch of road, but few spend time here.  Here’s a sample of the features on the upper east side.

Monochrome Madness: MM3-19

Once upon a time I hung out with a couple other photographers who used to lug bulky, heavy cameras in their backpacks similar to mine.  They always felt that it wasn’t really nature photography unless you had gotten off the main road, travelled some back road, then hiked a ways, and then got off the trail to your location.  If a shot was taken from the trail or road it was “trail kill”, or “road kill”.
I relayed a story to them that a golf pro once told me.  He said, “There’s no description on a scorecard.  The player who slices his drive into the woods, then tops his next shot 50 feet, then follows up hitting into the sand trap, then holing out from the sand shoots the same number as the player who goes from the middle of the fairway to the green, then two putts.”  Whether through a major expedition, or no effort whatsoever, nobody ever sees what went into getting a photograph.
As I was driving down towards Phoenix a few years ago, I came across some extremely unusual weather and lighting circumstances.  I pulled off the main road and searched frantically for a good foreground.  I was still shooting film alongside my digital camera at the time, and wanted to capture it on film, but never found the complete image I wanted.  Instead of continuing on my way, I stuck around, seeing that the weather was rapidly changing.  Prior to this shot there was a decent rainbow, and I thought that was my runner-up for the one that got away.  Within minutes of the rainbow, I knew I needed to get back into my car in a hurry.  I could actually hear the rain from this storm hitting the mountain a mile or two away.  I got back into my car, but didn’t drive very far. Just as the drops started to pelt me, there was a pullout with a nice overlook.  The wind-driven rain was coming from my left side, and the sun was still coming through on the right.  I rolled down my very dry passenger window and started firing towards the storm.  This shot would be the ultimate form of “road kill”.
I would’ve never captured this rain event outside the car without destroying my camera, but I didn’t know what I had until I saw the images on the computer screen later that night.  Seeing this shot full size allows for the detail of the storm, so I’ve included a portion of it at 100% below.

Desert Downpour cropped - Steve Bruno
This is my contribution to Monochrome Madness this week.  You can go to Leanne Cole’s website to see the work of other bloggers.

WPC: Frame

I find that natural arches usually frame the surrounding scenery very well.  The photo above was taken from underneath Devil’s Bridge, near Sedona, Arizona.  I was fortunate to have just the right amount of clouds helping to fill the frame.

Cave Creek Canyon, in the far southeastern corner of Arizona, is named for all the openings that dot the canyon walls.  From far inside one of the larger openings, looking back into the canyon, I loved how this shot is framed.

Cave Creek Canyon Chiricahua Mountains - Steve Bruno

Historical Photographs, Part IV

Quite a few years ago, my brother and I went on a weekend trip through northeastern Arizona.  One afternoon, we went hiking in at Petrified Forest National Park.  The trail was difficult to follow, so we gave up trying, and just started heading off into the backcountry.  Petrified Forest NP, which lies in the middle of the Painted Desert, has hills that can look the same very quickly, and is not the place for an inexperienced hiker.  After about a couple miles of this, we knew it was almost time to turn around, when something caught our attention.  As we got closer, we couldn’t believe our eyes.  There were two standing petrified trees!  Although one was more like a tree fragment, the larger was about 9-10 feet tall.

Standing Trees - Petrified Forest NP - Steve Bruno

As you take the driving tour through the park, you will see the petrified logs laying on the ground, with some I’ve seen 40-50 feet in length.  I haven’t covered every square mile of Petrified Forest National Park, but I’m pretty sure these trees were the last ones standing.  That day was a complete adrenaline rush, but both my brother and I knew we had to come back and see this again with different skies.

It was almost a year later when our schedules coincided and we had dramatic skies to photograph this rare find.  It had been a wet winter, and the washes still had water as we headed into the backcountry.  Like I said earlier, the hills can look alike, and we were having trouble locating the trees.  We were joking that we were losing our tracking abilities, but then we discovered why we were having difficulty.  The taller of the trees was no longer standing.

As I mentioned, it had been a wet winter, and the soft soil of the Painted Desert captures impressions very well.  When we arrived at the fallen tree, there was a lone set of footprints that wandered towards the tree in an almost drunken fashion, stopped at the tree (easily in arms reach), then continued onward.  When this tree eventually fell, I figured it was going to be towards the right (top photo), but it had fallen to the left.  More importantly, it fell away from the footprints.

I find it highly improbable that this tree stayed upright for so many centuries, then fell on its own within the next year.  The footprints and the direction of the fall lead me to believe it had assistance.  This seems like the senseless destruction that only a young male would do, but then the story about boy scout leaders toppling a boulder in Goblin Valley, Utah a couple years ago makes me wonder.  They were both in their 40’s, and supposed role models, but look like immature teenagers in the video.  Their excuse was “we didn’t want the rock to fall on someone and hurt them”.  Sounds like the bullshit their lawyer fed them.

In the case of the petrified tree, the footprints wandered further into the backcountry.  I honestly hope that the asshole who did this was drunk and couldn’t find their way back, and ended up being a good meal for the coyotes and buzzards.  At least there would be some purpose for this waste of life.

Even with the photos I did manage to get on the first trip, it took a couple tries before I had one published.  Ironically, on the day after the magazine came out, I received a phone call from a photographer who gave me a long winded story when I inquired about one of his locations.  For a brief moment, I felt like sending him on a wild goose chase, but I was still disgusted over this, and just told him how there was nothing left to go back to.

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